Here is our look at the backfield status for each of the NFL’s 32 teams.
Arizona Cardinals Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: Beanie Wells (16 carries, 50 yards, TD; one reception, 14 yards); LaRod Stephens-Howling (four carries, 41 yards, TD); Tim Hightower (one carry, zero yards; one reception, 11 yards) Season: Beanie Wells (69 carries, 233 yards, 2 TD; three receptions, 25 yards); Hightower (53 carries, 298 yards, 2 TD; nine receptions, 64 yards); Stephens-Howling (13 carries, 94 yards, TD; eight receptions, 62 yards)
Comment: Head coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t crying wolf when he said the Cardinals couldn’t live with Hightower’s fumbling. He buried the guy, and … what’s that? Wells was limited in Wednesday’s practice with swelling in his right knee? If you own Wells, watch the injury reports as the weekend approaches. Again.
Atlanta Falcons Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Bye Season: Michael Turner (131 carries, 587 yards, 3 TD; nine receptions, 73 yards); Jason Snelling (61 carries, 265 yards, 2 TD; 17 receptions, 101 yards, TD)
Comment: Bucs coach Raheem Morris has been saying that his young 5-2 squad is the best team in the NFC. Unfortunately, they’re giving up about 150 yards per game on the ground. Turner is going to run all over them.
Comment: In Week 7, Rice carried 16 times to McGahee’s 11. It’s time for Rice to grab hold of his lead back role. He’s been good, but you didn’t draft him third or fourth overall for this.
Buffalo Bills Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Fred Jackson (20 carries, 64 yards; three receptions, 11 yards); C.J. Spiller (six carries, 17 yards; four receptions, 28 yards) Season: Jackson (75 carries, 297 yards, TD; seven receptions, eight yards); Spiller (32 carries, 130 yards; 17 receptions, 76 yards)
Comment: Jackson has 47 touches in the last two games. He hasn’t put up big numbers yet, but he will sooner or later.
Carolina Panthers Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: Jonathan Stewart (14 carries, 30 yards; one reception, eight yards); DeAngelo Williams (DNP – injured) Season: Williams (87 carries, 341 yards; 11 receptions, 61 yards); Stewart (64 carries, 176 yards, TD; five receptions, 85 yards, TD)
Comment: With Williams in danger of missing another game because of his foot injury, Stewart might get another chance to prove he has some fantasy value. Any value at all, J-Stew. No hurry, even though a lot of people drafted you as an RB2.
Chicago Bears Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: Bye Season: Matt Forte (90 carries, 352 yards, 3 TD; 26 receptions, 303 yards, 3 TD); Chester Taylor (44 carries, 160 yards; 10 receptions, 78 yards)
Comment: While the Bears were off, offensive coordinator Mike Martz said that Taylor will be the goal-line back, and that Taylor and Forte might be on the field together at times. That makes Taylor intriguing, except for the poor offensive line play and the fact that Jay Cutler will probably throw at least 40 times again. Taylor is worth picking up if it’s just as a flier. Hope for upside, but don’t count on anything.
Cincinnati Bengals Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Cedric Benson (20 carries, 69 yards; three receptions, 12 yards); Bernard Scott (two carries, 22 yards) Season: Benson (143 carries, 545 yards, 2 TD; nine receptions, 57 yards, TD); Bernard Scott (20 carries, 94 yards; eight receptions, 58 yards)
Comment: Benson has a miserable matchup against the Steelers, making this week one of the few times you should consider benching a 20-carry back. Scott has looked spry lately, and could catch some passes out of the backfield if the running attack gets shut down.
Cleveland Browns Committee worry level: Non-existent Week 8: Bye Season: Peyton Hillis (104 carries, 460 yards, 5 TD; 27 receptions, 193 yards, TD); Mike Bell (seven carries, zero yards)
Comment: Mr. Hillis, meet Vince Wilfork. Good luck!
Comment: Jones missed practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, so everybody in the world is going to tell you to pick up Choice. I like Choice, but that seems like a reach until we know more about Jones’ condition (and it doesn’t sound too bad). However, if you have a roster spot to use on a guy that might not play at all, go ahead and grab Choice. I won’t stop you.
Comment: Unfortunately for all the Bronco backs (and Kyle Orton), Tim Tebow is about to start getting all the goal-line carries. He’s going to be a thorn in a lot of fantasy owners’ sides.
Detroit Lions Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Jahvid Best (12 carries, 48 yards; five receptions, 31 yards); Kevin Smith (12 carries, 51 yards; two receptions, 16 yards) Season: Best (91 carries, 297 yards, 4 TD; 36 receptions, 316 yards, TD); Smith (22 carries, 96 yards; seven receptions, 55 yards)
Comment: This worry level is low for now, but could get more interesting if Smith has another solid game. Makes you wonder if Best’s turf toe is bothering him more than we’ve been told.
Green Bay Packers Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Brandon Jackson (15 carries, 55 yards; two receptions, 17 yards); John Kuhn (eight carries, 21 yards) Season: Jackson (95 carries, 418 yards, 2 TD; 21 receptions, 167 yards); Kuhn (49 carries, 175 yards, TD; four receptions, 25 yards)
Comment: Jackson gets the Cowboys this week, huh? I think I could run for a buck-twenty against the Cowboys right now.
Houston Texans Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Arian Foster (15 carries, 102 yards, TD; nine receptions, 65 yards); Derrick Ward (two carries, five yards; two receptions, nine yards) Season: Foster (130 carries, 737 yards, 7 TD; 28 receptions, 245 yards, TD); Ward (20 carries, 148 yards, 3 TD; two carries, five yards)
Comment: Foster was flat-out terrific on Monday against the Colts. Raise your hand if you own him and your team is in first place. I bet there are a lot of you.
Indianapolis Colts Committee worry level: High Week 8: Mike Hart (12 carries, 84 yards; three receptions, 19 yards); Donald Brown (nine carries, 16 yards; two receptions, 13 yards); Joseph Addai (DNP – injured) Season: Addai (93 carries, 406 yards, 3 TD; 18 receptions, 118 yards); Hart (38 carries, 177 yards, TD; four receptions, 24 yards); Brown (32 carries, 97 yards, TD; four receptions, 39 yards)
Comment: Brown is practicing fully, but the status for both Addai and Hart is up in the air for Week 9. Brown might be a solid fantasy play as the last man standing, unless you count 22nd-stringer Javarrius James (which you probably shouldn’t).
Comment: That’s 269 yards from scrimmage over the last two games for MJD. He’s rolling.
Kansas City Chiefs Committee worry level: High Week 8: Jamaal Charles (22 carries, 177 yards; four receptions, 61 yards); Thomas Jones (19 carries, 77 yards; one reception, five yards) Season: Jones (118 carries, 538 yards, 3 TD; four receptions, 21 yards); Charles (103 carries, 666 yards, 2 TD; 16 receptions, 191 yards)
Comment: Wow-wee-wow-wow. Charles has 857 yards from scrimmage in seven games despite touching the ball slightly less than half the time. I thought he was being overdrafted in August, and I clearly misunderestimated him, even if he hasn’t scored very much.
Miami Dolphins Committee worry level: High Week 8: Ronnie Brown (16 carries, 61 yards; one reception, seven yards); Ricky Williams (nine carries, 47 yards, TD; one reception, two yards) Season: Brown (92 carries, 374 yards, TD; 13 receptions, 80 yards); Williams (76 carries, 335 yards, TD; six receptions, 46 yards, TD)
Comment: Running against the Ravens isn’t as hard as it used to be, which is good for the Ronnie & Ricky duo this week. It’s too bad that they’re both so … blah.
Comment: Nice little receiving outing for Gerhart, but with Randy Moss gone, Purple Jesus might start racking up even more carries than the 23.5 per game he’s been getting already.
New England Patriots Committee worry level: High Week 8: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (17 carries, 112 yards, 2 TD; one reception, 11 yards); Danny Woodhead (six carries, 13 yards, TD; five receptions, 45 yards); Sammy Morris (no stats); Fred Taylor (DNP – injured); Season: Green-Ellis (85 carries, 371 yards, 6 TD; two receptions, 17 yards); Woodhead (36 carries, 178 yards, 2 TD; 14 receptions, 136 yards, TD); Taylor (25 carries, 98 yards; two receptions, six yards); Morris (11 carries, 29 yards; one reception, 19 yards)
Comment: OK, I’m sold. Woodhead has averaged nearly 13 touches over his last three games, so if you want to start him in a pinch, I won’t argue. He’s no BJGE, but he’s not bad.
New Orleans Saints Committee worry level: High Week 8: Julius Jones (seven carries, 16 yards; three receptions, 20 yards); Chris Ivory (seven carries, seven yards); Ladell Betts (three receptions, eight yards; one reception, zero yards); Pierre Thomas (DNP – injured); Reggie Bush (DNP – injured) Season: Thomas (46 carries, 147 yards, TD; 17 receptions, 133 yards); Ivory (56 carries, 332 yards; one reception, 17 yards); Betts (32 carries, 119 yards, TD; 19 receptions, 103 yards); Jones (29 carries, 84 yards; five receptions, 27 yards); Bush (seven carries, 18 yards; nine receptions, 63 yards, TD)
Comment: Thomas still isn’t ready to come back, and Bush might not be either. New Orleans Times-Picayune Saints’ beat writer Jeff Duncan said on Wednesday that Jones might get a bigger workload this week because of Ivory’s recent struggles. Yes, that Julius Jones.
New York Giants Committee worry level: Low Week 8: Bye Season: Ahmad Bradshaw (134 carries, 708 yards, 3 TD; 16 receptions, 105 yards); Brandon Jacobs (57 carries, 282 yards, 5 TD; four receptions, 26 yards)
Comment: After some early-season struggles, stupid comments and a helmet throw, Jacobs has carried 37 times for 213 yards and five touchdowns over his last four games. Those numbers are worthy of a flex fantasy start, especially with all the marquee backs that are off this week. New York Jets Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: LaDainian Tomlinson (16 carries, 54 yards; five receptions, 37 yards); Shonn Greene (six carries, 22 yards; one reception, 10 yards) Season: Tomlinson (108 carries, 544 yards, 5 TD; 24 receptions, 144 yards); Greene (77 carries, 345 yards, TD; three receptions, 27 yards)
Comment: There probably aren’t a lot of leagues that have free agents better than Greene, but he’s bench fodder now unless you need him in a bye week. Some of you have figured that out already, but I can be stubborn about waiting for good players.
Oakland Raiders Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: Darren McFadden (21 carries, 111 yards; two receptions, 24 yards); Michael Bush (nine carries, 51 yards, TD; one reception, 55 yards) Season: McFadden (122 carries, 668 yards, 4 TD; 20 receptions, 217 yards, 2 TD); Bush (80 carries, 307 yards, 4 TD; nine receptions, 127 yards)
Comment: McFadden was clearly the lead back in Week 8 after more of a split against the Broncos. Bush is still worthy of a start if you need a bye-week replacement. I keep thinking that the Raiders will continue to give Bush decent work in order to keep McFadden healthy.
Comment: Mendenhall gets pulled on passing downs and in short yardage a little more often than you’d like, but he still qualifies as a workhorse.
San Diego Chargers Committee worry level: High Week 8: Ryan Mathews (15 carries, 43 yards, TD; three receptions, 11 yards); Mike Tolbert (11 carries, 63 yards, TD; four receptions, 27 yards); Darren Sproles (four carries, 41 yards; four receptions, 36 yards, TD)
Comment: Colleague Mike Harmon and I came up with a new classification for Mathews earlier this week. He’s the Chargers’ lead back on non-passing downs between the 20-yard-lines. Good luck with that if you own him!
San Francisco 49ers Committee worry level: Non-existent Week 8: Frank Gore (29 carries, 118 yards, TD; one reception, seven yards) Season: Gore (164 carries, 691 yards, 2 TD; 38 receptions, 348 yards, 2 TD)
Comment: The Niners have a bye this week, but with Troy Smith set to start again at quarterback in Week 10, Gore will stay very busy.
Comment: Ugh. Let’s pretend Week 8 never happened, and stick with the idea that Lynch is the lead back with Forsett getting enough work to stay relevant. The Giants won’t be a pushover this week, though.
St. Louis Rams Committee worry level: Non-existent Week 8: Steven Jackson (23 carries, 59 yards; one reception, four yards) Season: Jackson (172 carries, 676 yards, 2 TD; 17 receptions, 169 yards)
Comment: I’ve been having a running debate with a fellow fantasy writer about Jackson’s value; he thought Jackson was overrated before the season, and thinks you should trade him now because the Rams’ schedule is about to get tougher. Jackson hasn’t scored enough again this season, and his broken finger might impact his receiving skills. But if you drafted him 11th or 12th, are you happy? I think I am. Not ecstatic, but happy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: LeGarrette Blount (22 carries, 120 yards, 2 TD; two receptions, nine yards); Cadillac Williams (four carries, 10 yards; three receptions, 26 yards); Earnest Graham (DNP – injured) Season: Williams (84 carries, 212 yards; 26 receptions, 187 yards, TD); Blount (43 carries, 222 yards, 3 TD; two receptions, nine yards); Graham (14 carries, 89 yards, TD; 10 receptions, 98 yards, TD)
Comment: Williams could still get enough catches to have value in PPR leagues, but Blount essentially took this job with his performance against the Cardinals. Did you see the fourth-quarter run when Blount spun out of a tackle and then hurdled a safety? He looked like Edwin Moses, and I know I’m dating myself with that reference.
Tennessee Titans Committee worry level: Non-existent Week 8: Chris Johnson (15 carries, 59 yards, TD; five receptions, 24 yards) Season: Johnson (178 carries, 721 yards, 8 TD; 22 receptions, 90 yards)
Comment: Will Randy Moss make the running lanes bigger for Johnson? Maybe a little, and that will help, since Johnson hasn’t been quite what you expected after drafting him first overall. Colleague Roger Rotter thinks the Moss acquisition will help Johnson.
Washington Redskins Committee worry level: Medium Week 8: Ryan Torain (nine carries, 10 yards; three receptions, 19 yards, TD); Keiland Williams (six carries, 25 yards, TD; three receptions, 28 yards) Season: Torain (91 carries, 391 yards, 3 TD; eight receptions, 55 yards); Williams (10 carries, 38 yards, TD; 14 receptions, 85 yards, TD)
Comment: The ‘Skins have a bye this week, but this situation is about to get interesting. Torain injured a hamstring in Week 8, and even if he’s OK, a Week 11 return looms for Clinton Portis. It might be time to hedge your bets and sell high on Torain while you still can. Maybe he’ll keep the job, and maybe he won’t.